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Light Pollution Causes Insomnia in Older Adults

It can be difficult to sleep sometimes when bright artificial lights are shining outside your bedroom, and a new first-of-its-kind study shows there is a significant association between light pollution and insomnia in older adults.  

Results show that increasing nighttime levels of artificial, outdoor light exposure were associated with an increased prevalence of sleep drug prescriptions and daily dose intake. Furthermore, older adults exposed to higher levels of artificial, outdoor light at night were more likely to use sleep drugs for longer periods or higher daily dosages.

“This study observed a significant association between the intensity of outdoor, artificial, nighttime lighting and the prevalence of insomnia as indicated by hypnotic agent prescriptions for older adults in South Korea,” said Kyoung-bok Min, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Seoul National University College of Medicine in South Korea. “Our results are supportive data that outdoor, artificial, nighttime light could be linked to sleep deprivation among those while inside the house.”

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, insomnia can involve struggling to fall asleep, having trouble maintaining sleep, or waking up too early. A variety of environmental factors, including excessive noise or light and extreme temperatures, will disrupt the sleep of most individuals.

The authors reported that the inappropriate or excessive use of artificial, outdoor light at night, referred to as “light pollution,” has emerged as an environmental factor linked to human health. Research has shown that artificial nighttime lighting, whether indoor or outdoor, induces disruption of circadian rhythms, potentially leading to metabolic and chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes, obesity and depression.

Usage data for two hypnotic sleep drugs, zolpidem and triazolam, were extracted from health insurance records. About 22 percent of study participants had prescriptions for hypnotic drugs.

Min added that public health officials seem to be less concerned with light pollution than with other environmental pollutants. However, this study strengthens the potential link between light pollution and adverse health consequences.

Source: News Release